93 percent of Southwest Airlines employees vaccinated or seeking exemptions ahead of deadline

Greg Nash

Roughly 93 percent of Southwest Airlines employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or are seeking an exemption ahead of the Jan. 4 deadline for federal contractors to get vaccinated, according to a company memo.

Southwest has not provided specific details on the percentage of workers who got vaccinated versus the percentage of workers seeking a medical or religious exemption.

“We continue to work through accommodation requests received and are pleased to report that the large majority of our compliant employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Southwest emergency director Steve Goldberg said in the memo, which was obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

Southwest, along with other major airlines, has large contracts with the U.S. government to transport supplies and federal officials, meaning its workers must comply with President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

Employees who don’t comply with the mandate by Jan. 4 could face termination, but the Biden administration has given federal contractors broad flexibility to enforce their own rules. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly previously said the company will not fire any of its employees over the federal mandate.

Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors is currently held up in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee following a federal court order, but the Biden administration is still moving forward with enforcing the rule.

Other airlines have surpassed the 90 percent vaccination threshold ahead of the Jan. 4 deadline. Delta Air Lines said that 90 percent of its employees were vaccinated without a mandate in place. The company instead adds a $200 monthly surcharge to unvaccinated employees’ health care plans.  

United Airlines said that 99 percent of its employees got vaccinated in accordance with the company’s own vaccine mandate. Only around 200 employees were forced out of the company for refusing to comply.

Tags Airlines COVID-19 Delta Air Lines federal contractor Joe Biden mandate southwest airlines United Airlines Vaccine
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